What if the drugs don’t work?

A young man has stabbed his grandmother to death in England and now faces trial. The trial is to decide whether he committed murder or manslaughter. That he killed her is not in doubt.

According to the Daily Mail, the man’s ‘addiction’ to cannabis – a usage quoted at a mere two joints daily – may be to blame. This is the grounds of his defence case, incidentally.

Buried in the article are further details that the man was also taking prescription medications – specifically Elvanse for Attention Deficit Disorder and Xanax for depression. It is reported that his mood had changed significantly in the months prior to the killing, and that his family had grown concerned about his taking both cannabis and these prescribed medicines.

Clonazepam vs. Xanax: Differences, dosage, and side effects

I don’t wish to prejudice this particular case so instead I will speak generically. Elvanse is an amphetamine stimulant. Xanax is a Benzodiazepine sedative. Anyone taking both is having their moods artificially heightened and lowered simultaneously.

Both medications have a range of significant side-effects, including hallucinations, mood swings and aggressive behaviour (Elvanse) and depression, agoraphobia, social phobia and loss of libido (Xanax).

Yes, you read that correctly. One of the side effects of a medication commonly prescribed for depression actually causes further depression. Furthermore, both drugs can cause dependence. That is, it is possible to become addicted to them. By contrast, there is no evidence that it is possible to become physiologically addicted to cannabis, though psychological dependence is widely reported.

In the 1970s, heavy sedatives like Mogadon were commonly prescribed to housewives who experienced depression or anxiety. For many of these women, this was a sentence to decades of zombification, their moods and personalities entirely suppressed under a cosh of sedation.

We now recognise that in many instances, what they were actually suffering from was social isolation, attempting to raise small children alone in dormitory suburbs without sufficient social connections and supports.

I wonder whether there might be similar societally caused reasons underpinning the vast upswing in depression, anxiety disorders and issues like ADHD among the younger generations today?

It may well be that such medications are helpful in some instances. But in many cases, people are prescribed via a ‘throwing darts at the wall’ method, where they are placed on one regimen for six months, and then if it doesn’t work, the dosage is varied or a slightly different medication offered in replacement.

As a result, they can go years without seeing their symptoms alleviate, especially as the periods of tailoring up and down on these drugs can be especially disconcerting and debilitating. Furthermore, as in the instance of the two medications mentioned, dependency issues can develop.

In such circumstances, it is hardly surprising that some young people attempt to self-medicate, especially with widely available recreational substances like cannabis. And obviously cannabis is not a good idea for a still-developing young mind, especially since it appears to catalyse the likelihood of schizophrenia and like conditions among those with genetic predispositions.

Furthermore, the THC content of cannabis has been rising for decades. The ditchweed smoked at Woodstock bears almost no resemblance to the high-octane skunk now sold in California, Amsterdam and elsewhere. When the UK newspaper the Independent reported on the dangers of skunk in 2008, reported THC content was up to 14% Nowadays, it can be as high as 25%

I have no easy answers here, but I am beginning to wonder whether future decades will look back on this era and the widespread prescription of amphetamines and barbiturates to young people, including children, with similar horror as we now look back on the decades of mothers lost in a haze of ‘mommy’s little helpers’.